Prolonged Exposure (PE)

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Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy is a type of cognitive- behavioral treatment that focuses on decreasing symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is an individual therapy that addresses the common causes and symptoms of PTSD in four ways. These are education about treatment and common reactions to trauma, breathing retraining, in vivo exposure, and imaginal exposure.

PE addresses symptoms by decreasing avoidance, one of the underlying causes of PTSD. The therapy allows you to work through painful memories in a safe and supportive environment. It also allows you to engage with activities you have been avoiding because of the trauma. In PE, the process of addressing the trauma memory is called “imaginal” exposure. The therapist works with you to change thoughts and feelings surrounding your trauma. The process of engaging with real life situations is called “in vivo” (“in real life”) exposure. This is where you and your therapist work together to identify activities that you have been avoiding due to the trauma. The goal of in vivo and imaginal exposure is to help you return to activities that you used to enjoy. This process helps to improve quality of life.